I meant to post this on Christmas Night when we got home, but there was just so much else to do. So here it is!
Today is Christmas.
Whether it's a holdiay you celebrate personally, or one you sit out, we hope it's a time of love, joy and peace in your life.
It isn't always that way, even for those of us who extol Christmas the most. The moments we want to be filled with warmth adn togetherness instead leave us lonely and cold. Our unrealistic expectations dissolve into disappointment and tears. We stress over iteneraries and preparations, and miss out on the magic.
Then again, it's sometimes hard for the magic of Christmas to break through our mundane circumstances, our heartaches and our pain. Whether we have lost loved ones, experienced financial setbacks or otherwise been dispossessed of our thrill for living, holidays can be a grim reminder of what we don't have.
May it not be so for you today.
May today find you with your family, or your friends and your sense of humor. May it find you receptive to whatever smiles come your way. May if find you with enough hope to last for today and maybe enough to get you going tomorrow.
Remember: The blessing of Christmas doesn't live under a tree, wrapped in festive paper and adorned in bows. It resides in our hearts and in the hearts of the ones we love. It lives in the songs, the sounds, the smells and the sights we will cherish long after we've forgotten who gave what to whom.
We know, we know: Every now and then, a perfect and unforgettable gift comes along, and that's something to celebrate, too.
Indeed, for Christians, that is the spiritual meaning of this holiday. Christmas marks the birth of Jesus and all that it signifies: the arrival of God in our midst, the rebirth of hope in a fallen world and, ultimately, the redemption of mankind. But what even Christians sometimes forget is that the perfect gift arrived in quite imperfect circumstances. Jesus didn't arrive in the best house with the best tree and the best presents; he was born in a barn. Out of this striking simplicity springs abundant life promised in return for our faith.
Remember that today.
There's something all of us can take from a holiday that encourages us to look beyond what we need and want, and to try to search out the yearnings of others. At its best, Christmas calls on us to reach beyond our "significant" others, to remember the poor child across town who might not get a present, the new widow on your cul-de-sac who might not have an invitation anywhere else, the homeless man whose Christmas dinner might come from a garbage can.
Christmas calls on us to give. By all means, do that, with a cheerful heart. But never forget that the best gifts can't be bought at the mall. Better yet, they cost nothing. The gift of time. The gift of service. The gift of hospitality. The gift of love.
Give them, and you won't have pangs of buyer's remorse when the credit card bill arrives in January.
Merry Christmas, Friends!
I wish I could say these were my words, but they aren't. I bought a paper on the way out of town Friday on the way back home to have something to read. This was on page 6A of the Birmingham News Christmas Day, 2009. It spoke to me on so many different levels. For some reason, for the past few months, I have felt a small calling towards something to do with mission work and for those less fortunate. I won't get into that now. But it also spoke to me on a much more personal level - on the level of being a Christian and having that Faith and wanting me and my family to always remember the reason for the season. This year, Sid and I did not get each other gifts. He got a few things that he wanted this month and I got a new laptop a few months back, so we called it even and didn't spend the money just for the sake of having a gift to give each other. In some ways, I think we both missed the gift giving to each other. However, even though I can't speak for him, I can say for myself it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the gift that we have in each other, and the gift that we have in being a family and being together. I think at one point I told him that it didn't bother me that in his head I got my Christmas back in September, because I'd much rather have a few good memories with him and Bailey than a gift under the tree anyway. In some ways, I wish that we could cut out giving or receiving gifts altogether, but then at the same time, I want Bailey to grow up having the experience of Christmas and Santa and such. I'm sure we will never really fully act on the whole "cut out the gifts and just make memories" but the thought is a nice one.
When Santa was making his stop at Mimi's house for Bailey on Christmas Eve, we realized that we really didn't get her all that much. But we also stopped to remember that she really didn't know the whole Santa deal or what presents were all about, so we embraced the opportunity to not have to worry about what she wanted and make sure we didn't leave anything out. Not to mention that two of the big ticket items we planned to get were gotten by other family members, some not even knowing it. I know I've mentioned this before, but in the future it will be really important for me to instill a since of giving and serving in Bailey and so hopefully as she gets older, she will learn this it isn't about getting, getting, getting. She will learn just how fortunate she is and I won't stress out about what she is or isn't getting.
Yesterday, Sid and I went to see a movie, and while standing in line getting popcorn I made the comment that I shouldn't get it because it hurts my stomach. Sure enough, before we could even get home, the curse of the corn had struck and I'm still feeling the effects today. So while I was up last night, and it was quite, I was just thinking and having some quite time and praying. And I was thinking about how God has a plan and in our faith we know that, we believe that, and I felt a little nudge saying "Yes, God has a plan, but so does the devil." Ahh, it's that pesky little devil we have to watch out for, as he knows our weaknesses just at God does. But instead of protecting us, he comes to destroy. I believe that if we don't take the time to serve others, and what better time to do it than at Christmas, we are allowing the devil in and keeping God from blessing us and us remembering the true meaning of Christmas.
Last year, when Bailey was in the NICU, we received a package from a family that had a baby in the NICU at Christmas time many years before. It was such a nice, thoughtful thing, and meant so much to us at such a scary time. They just wanted families that were spending Christmas in the hospital to feel some love and support and to know that someone was thinking of them. Too late in the season this year, I told Sid that we should do something for those families that are there this Christmas season. I won't let that opportunity pass us by next year, I can promise you that.
As much as I made a conscious effort to not forget God this Christmas, it is just so darn hard to do. I'm making it my New Year's Resolution to make serving others a priority so that at Christmas time it's not something I have to figure out. It's already a part of our daily lives. Something that is natural to us, to our family. I want to encourage you to do the same. Leave me a comment if you already do something on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis like this. I'd like to know your ideas and what you do, what your family does to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world. And if we can't do something because of time/money contraints, like the article says, it doesn't take much to just give a smile. Might be the only smile someone gets!!